ELECTION 2014: Idaho governor has long track record on transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/22/2014

Voters this fall in Idaho will have ballots filled with candidates vying for offices that stretch from Washington, D.C., to around the block.

One of the offices on Idaho’s ballot is for the governor’s seat. Gov. Butch Otter is seeking a third term at the helm.

It is no small task for Idaho voters to keep up with even the most notable actions taken by Otter during his time in office. While many professional drivers can recall precisely the actions relative to trucking that have been taken others welcome a helpful reminder.

With that in mind, below are some actions relevant to trucking that the Republican governor has taken during his eight years on the job.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, he opened more roads in the state to heavier trucks.

Idaho law already allowed tractor-trailers to weigh up to 105,500 pounds. And multiple trailer trucks with overweight permits can weigh up to 129,000 pounds. Otter put pen to paper in support of a bill expanding the miles of roads affected from 850 miles to 1,200 miles.

In reaction to lawsuits and hearings opposed to the shipment of so-called “megaloads” of oil equipment on U.S. 12 in north-central Idaho, Otter signed a bill the following year that requires anyone filing a lawsuit to challenge plans to haul oversized loads to post a bond equal to 5 percent of the load’s insured value.

The governor revisited the issue of heavy trucks one year ago when he signed three bills into law.

The first rule change made permanent a decade-old pilot project permitting heavier trucks on 35 southern Idaho routes. Other changes open the possibility of adding roads in northern Idaho to the list of routes where 129,000-pound loads are permitted to travel and require public hearings be held before designating any new roads for multiple trailer trucks.

Speed limits are another issue dealt with through multiple rule changes.

In 2012, Otter endorsed a change to remove the authority from towns to set speed limits on state highways. Instead, the power to set speed limits on affected roadways was returned to the Idaho Transportation Department.

Earlier this year he signed a bill that could result in faster speeds in certain areas of the state while maintaining a 10-mph speed differential between cars and trucks.

Another new law from this year taps into cigarette tax revenue to benefit road work. Specifically, $4.7 million annually from the state’s 56-cent-per-pack cigarette tax will be used to retire bonds from the “Connecting Idaho” highway construction program.

One more rule endorsed by the governor prohibits unfair clauses in trucking contracts. Since summer 2013, Idaho law forbids indemnification clauses. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

To view more information on Gov. Otter’s actions on transportation issues, visit votesmart.org.

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